FIVE

November 30th, 2017  23.57

(Military Time– Yes that’s how it should be written)

I’m sitting in my beautiful living room in my pajamas and a cup of tea… and I have to take pause and give thanks.

d19902528d21bcf06fa43ccfc4e89cf1-art-deco-typography-typography-design.jpgYou see, today marks the beginning of my fifth year in New York. It’s technically tomorrow December 1st, the day I actually arrived in the airport and set foot in the city for the first time to live since October 2000 when I left to study in London. For all intensive purposes my mind and my life changed on November 30th, 2012. It was the beginning of a different life. A Life I had no control over, and would not know its future or what direction it would go.

 

I still don’t know.

One thing is for certain, this fifth year has begun with a realization of how grateful I am for all the changes, the upsets, the doubt, the anger, the tears, the laughter, and the joy that I have felt these past five years. I have learned more about myself in these five years in New York than in any previous stretch of my life. I started to grow up here. I have become more of a woman than ever before, and I have shed and embraced  my girlish self.

There are many other anniversaries on this day that are also an integral part of who I am and who I will choose to be in the future.

Today also marks the fifth anniversary of this crazy idea of my amazing friend Karen (an American living in Greece), had; that I write and chronicle my adventures in New York City.  I’ve grown as yoga teacher, a traveler, a Greek who has an American mother and Greek father, a Greek who has an American Life and a Greek heart. Five years of a personal diary, turned blog, turned heart and life opening confessional, and a place where love, lust, secret desires hidden in poetry, spoken word and life truths maintain their home.

I am starting this next year with the realization that I’ve made many wrong turns, many mistakes but also have met some amazing people full of heart and soul. I have reconnected with my friends in Greece in ways that are so hard to express, and also wonderful to experience. My dear friends have become my family every time I return to Greece. I have also had the honor to meet some incredible people here, through my community at Daybreaker and also fell in love, had my heart broken, fell in love again, had my life turned upside down and learned life lessons that have shaped how I see the world.

I am truly blessed because I navigate with a compass that is composed of my heart and soul and desire for new and wonderful experiences. Despite the rising tides, storms and harsh winds, this journey was and continues to be one of absolute deep connection to my own true self.

These anniversaries continue and so is my commitment to writing about my adventures and observations about my New York. This city has done its best to chew me up and spit me out, yet I’m still here so I love this saucy minx. (sorry lady liberty)

Recently I was blessed to meet and walk the streets of New York with incredible people who’s heart and soul is connected and interwoven with the dirty, passionate, loving, chaotic and proud streets of the Lower East Side, East Harlem and Williamsburg. These amazing people have opened their hearts and lives to me and I feel so honored to have seen the city through their eyes. I am hardly a native New Yorker, but after my newest project took form (stay tuned! for future blog posts) I feel a little closer to this city and its people. Thank you to Jerry and Jonathan and Nandini who have given me small and large moments of their lives here and who took extra care to show me what their hood, their lives and their family has been all about.

In the past five years, friends and family have visited here, shared my passion for dancing, theater, music and food. I’ve learned that no place is more diverse, electric and over the top like this city. Whatever you want to try, experience, and dive into; it’s here for you.

I look forward to the next chapter. The next level of this ever changing ever loving ever breathing organism that is New York.

Thank you to everyone who has supported me and  has seen me through the good times and the very bad. You know who you are and what your presence in my life means to me. Thank you to those who kept reading my poems, my prose my confessions, my deep dark secrets, and my stupid observations of Gotham and its harsh beauty.

Thank you to those who encouraged me to keep writing when all I wanted to do was disappear and let go.

Onward…

Here is my ode to NYC on this fifth anniversary. Baby you’re looking fine…. and I still love you.

I’m in a New York state of Mind… tonight.

Eleana Kouneli– Almost Native New Yorker. Greek with a passion for travel. American with a passion for Greece. Lover of all things food, Yoga and art related. Thanks for your continued love and support!

Let the light shine

candle

No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” — Eleanor Roosevelt

 

I’m a multi faceted diamond that’s been treated like a two dollar chocolate prize.

It takes time to see the value,

when you’ve been treated like… dirt all your life.

It takes time to see the light from a room painted black, by your own hand even.

It’s hard to stay ahead when all you did was stay still and let people pass you by.

I don’t know why… I just believed the lies.

And gave in to my disguise.

I believed I was ugly cause they told me.

I believed I was dumb and let it mold me.

I believed I was tame when I’m a wild beast not wanting ever to be tamed.

And maimed

By those words of cruelty and hate… maybe you can’t relate, but maybe you can understand me.

To thine own self be true they say.

So give me time to find the sublime light within me.

I’ll shine just give me time.

In-between, cultures

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Cultural Experiment-

I grew up Greek with an American mother and Greek father in Athens, Greece, in the late 70’s early 80’s.

This is how I would start my autobiography as the tale of a cultural experiment. My whole life has been a journey of deeply relating to and feeling left out of  being a Greek, and ultimately being shaped by my somewhat American (whatever that is) upbringing.  Essentially I’ve always been an in-between person. I never fit in, and always held an outsider’s perspective. At first what felt like a detriment later proved to be an advantage.

In grade school I was bullied because of being a “little American” in Greece. In high school I was considered strange for being a Greek in U.S high school in the 90’s. And after Graduate School, upon returning to Greece after 11 years of being away, I decided that I would start defining who I am without all the labels, and cultural fixations set by others. It took till my early 30’s to feel absolutely comfortable with my dual existence.

I’m sure my parents had absolutely no idea how I would turn out, but one thing I must applaud them for is their steadfast insistence to language and cultural exploration. My mother only spoke to me in English even though after years of struggle and study she speaks Greek very well, and my father although fluent in English, only spoke and wrote to me in Greek. That being said, I spent all my childhood summers in the United States instead of some island or Greek village, as so many other Greek kids my age always did. That would set me apart from those who had never left their home for another country in Europe let alone the United States. I had my first passport at 3 months old and have now a collection of both Greek and American passports that fill a whole drawer.

It took till my early 30’s to feel absolutely comfortable with my dual existence.

After many awkward years, I came to realize that instead of this misplaced half breed who didn’t fit in anywhere, I was at a cultural and linguistic advantage.  I was given this gift of cultural fluidity and dual citizenship few people enjoy. I feel at home and comfortable with both cultures; I understand the quirks and idiosyncrasies of feeling and acting like a Greek when I’m in Greece, and as an American when I’m in the United States. What I’ve recently discovered is that I can quite easily blend and transform myself to any culture and place as long as I observe and try to understand it. I’ve become a cultural chameleon of sorts.

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I started this journey of blending and relating to others so I can fit in, while in College;  in upstate New York. As the only Greek, American who had truly grown up in both cultures I was somewhat of an anomaly, so I related to the outcasts and misfits in my school more frequently than the “it” girls and cool people who would play sports, hang out with the gorgeous students and enjoy College “fame”. I met the kids from ABC (A Better Chance) house in high school in Amherst, most of them from New York City neighborhoods who were insanely smart and were given an opportunity to study at a very “clean cut”, and academically challenging high school.

I was given this gift of cultural fluidity and dual citizenship few people enjoy.

I instantly related to them; they were not born or raised in Massachusetts and had a other worldliness that I was drawn to. I too was this strange Greek girl to them; not your typical American kid, and I found myself being embraced by my new family.

After leaving the United States, coming back to Greece was yet another transition and adjustment. I was seen as a foreigner, an outsider, until I proved myself again to be able to blend, adjust, absorb and accept local cultural, societal and colloquial demands.

In between two cultures

After 13 years in Greece, I’m back where I started;  always with this idea that I’m balancing between two cultures and two ways of life. This time I absolutely love being a part of both. There are times I don’t fully embrace or condone American culture, especially now in the current political climate, and similarly I don’t agree with how things are in Greece, but instead of being angry at the shortcomings and Greekisms of one place, and the bravado and “bigger better faster” attitude of America, I try to pick and choose what best defines me from both places, and love both countries equally with their shortcomings and flaws.

DNA and cultural Identity 

With all the questions and curiosity behind my multi-cultural and multi-ethnic background, I recently took a DNA ancestry test. I had been wanting to do this for a long time, so I was very excited to share the results here. I was pleasantly surprised as well as reaffirmed in what I already knew about my heritage. I am loving each and every part of who I am and try to embrace all the tiles that make the mosaic of my life now and for years to come.

If your curious about my results check the link below!

Eleana’s Ancestry Test 

In all honesty I’ve become a nomad and find a home wherever I go, but the place I deeply love with utter abandon and will always have in my heart as my true home is Athens, Greece.  Stay tuned for the next blog post dedicated to my beloved city.

For more information on Ancestry Tests and if you are curious to do one of your own

check the link below and use my referral for a small discount!

Take a leap into your Ancestry Test:

23 and Me

 

 

Travel Diaries Part. 3 South Crete- Wild Beauty

I first came across the beauty of South Crete in April 2006, as part of a yoga teacher training. I always felt Crete was too far away, too long, too much hassle to travel to, before I actually made the trek to the breath-taking beaches of the southern coast.

It’s admittedly a long trip (6-9 hours by boat but for the right price a mere 45 mins by plane from Athens). As a Greek who loves to travel, I must sheepishly admit that I’ve not seen enough of my own country. I am trying in small ways to change that.

Visiting Triopetra and Agios Pavlos changed my whole outlook on Crete and opened my heart to one of the most rugged, wild beauties of the Mediterranean and Libyan seas. Crete is a society, culture, and land quite independent of all other parts of Greece. It can quite easily sustain itself, with its rich diverse climates providing, avocados, bananas and tropical fruit, as well as cheeses, meats, grains and wild herbs never to be seen anywhere else in the country.


Crete is a mystery, a healing renewing place full of misfits, vagabonds and people who decided that the big city life isn’t for them. The locals are a guarded, strong-willed people. They are incredibly proud and protective of their land, and they have legends, stories and history to prove of their resistance to invasions of all kinds. After their hard exterior melts into a smile and when you get to know them, they are the warmest, loving people you will ever come across. They embrace you as one of their own, and even after a seven-year absence those same faces were happy to see me as I them.

My dear friend Despina– we have the same eyes!

 

 

Crete is a mystery, a healing renewing place full of misfits, vagabonds and people who decided that the big city life isn’t for them.

I stayed for four days in this beautiful paradise, far away from the overcrowded city and the aggressive mentality of urban living. I learned to let go of my phone, my worries, my watch and just be in nature; with the blanket of the stars as my backdrop.

Sfakia and Sweet Water Beach August 27th, 2017 : My first evening at Sweet Water beach I stayed at a wonderful newly renovated little boutique hotel in the center of town. After finding my dear friends who I had not seen in almost seven years, we watched the sun set and the evening sky reveal every constellation visible to the human eye, the moon, Venus, the big dipper all there in full clarity away from lights and buildings. I first experienced its grandeur in 2007 and my last time in 2010 during a yoga workshop I taught in Sfakia. I wasn’t prepared for the life changing experience I was about to have and I wasn’t prepared to fall in love with this magical land.

This place moves you too connect with your higher self. Stripped of all noise and distraction this town is for when one is ready to be one with nature. Sleeping on the beach one evening is highly recommended. Just make sure you get plenty of bug spray and a good sleeping bag. The water coming up from the rocks is drinkable

Sweet Water Beach Sfakia 

On the last day of my trip I took the walking  route to Sweetwater beach at 7:00 am. The sun was already warm and the shade provided some comfort on the way to the beach.

The route to Sweet water beach by foot
View of Sweet water beach from the rugged path.
Don’t mess with South Crete- Guns Booze and festivals all year. 


I left this beautiful place with my heart full and my mind at ease. It’s a destination not for the faint of heart. This place will change you and transform you in ways you may not immediately understand. For those wanting to go beyond the beaten paths of Mykonos and Santorini… southern Crete is one of the jewels in the crown of Greece.

 

10 things I would say to my 25 year old self.

I heard an interview of a well known comedian who was asked … What would you tell your 25 year old self? and I wondered what if I could turn back the clock and sit down with the younger Eleana and share with her what I know now.

We all know hindsight is 20/20. We are often haunted by the mistakes we made and the blunders that lead us to paths we weren’t quite ready for. In most cases though whatever life has thrown at us, we dealt with, we came through, we learned something valuable (in most cases), and we became better versions of our selves through the difficulties we faced.

At 39 I find I have become far more confident and self assured. I don’t envy or long for the past, the only thing I regret is carrying other people’s burdens as my own. That I’m still learning to let go of.

So here it goes… 25 year old Eleana.

  1. Believe in your skills and your talents, stop second guessing yourself
  2. Just because you are alone doesn’t mean you should sleep with that dude or any dude that doesn’t actually enjoy being with you.
  3. Stop all connection with your family- They are fucking evil.
  4. Your friends are there for you because they love you, listen to them when they give you advice.
  5. You don’t have to please everybody, some people just won’t like you, and that’s ok.
  6. Go for your dreams, run that marathon! It will be the most amazing time of your life.
  7. Run, away from that guy, he’s toxic, he will hurt you and he will try to break your spirit.
  8. Take charge, don’t let anyone decide your life for you.
  9. Go to India, learn yoga from the source, and travel more to places that excite your senses.
  10. You are enough, just the way you are.

 

For all the mistakes, missteps and misuse of energy, 25 was fun, carefree and I’m glad its over. On to the next 25.

 

Happy Fall !

 

 

All I want is….

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Forgive me for what I’m about to say

 

I want to be the first to tell you.

You are beautiful inside and out

Despite your self-doubt.

 

I want to get to know the real you,

Not the staged, caged version you show everyone else.

I feel for you, I weep with you, I sleep with you and I meant it too.

 

Hearing you breathe next to me is like a gift from the gods

I want you to be real with me and show that beautiful side so few get to see.

I’m glad you finally let me see.

 

I know I’m no one special, not the fantasy woman you seek.

I am a woman with flair, and a mind that tingles when you speak.

I can talk with you for hours, there is nothing more beautiful than your mind.

You’re one of a kind.

 

I know how your mind works

It needs constant reassurance that it’s alive

So you fuck to survive.

Shame you don’t fuck to thrive.

Maybe one day you will finally put your guard down and love life.